Fiats, Disruption & Other Automotive Excursions

When you think of Fiat in the U.S. market, you probably think first of the diminutive 500 (139.6 in. long) and its variants such as its Abarth trim.

When you think of Fiat in the U.S. market, you probably think first of the diminutive 500 (139.6 in. long) and its variants such as its Abarth trim. You might think of the 500L, a bigger version (167.3 in. long) of the small car.

The thing that both of the cars share is distinctive Italian design. (Interestingly, the Fiat 500 for the U.S. market is assembled in a plant in Toluca, Mexico, and the 500L in Kragujevac, Serbia.) So the choice is whether one is interested in extreme maneuverability with one’s charm or reasonably robust capacity.

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Questa non è la Fiat di tuo padre

But as Matt Davis, head of Marketing for Fiat Brand North America, explains, there is a third vehicle that they’re going to be bringing to the lineup in the second quarter of 2015, a 500 model that has notable capability.

It’s the Fiat 500X.

Davis references it as a “UV,” as in “utility vehicle.”

It is a B-segment crossover vehicle, one that is available with all-wheel-drive, a car that is bigger than the 500 and slightly smaller than the 500L (it is 167.2 in. long), but which provides a discernably higher H-point, the desirable attribute that many people are looking for.

According to Davis, speaking to Stephanie Brinley of IHS Automotive, Chris Paukert of Autoblog and me on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” (John McElroy was away, so I handled the helm, as it were), the 500X is the first model that is being offered in the U.S. market by Fiat that was developed with input from designers and engineers from the U.S. (Realize that the 500 and 500L are essentially European cars that were homologated for the U.S. market; Davis says people from Auburn Hills went to Italy to work on the development of the 500X. And it is worth pointing out that the 500X shares underpinnings and all-wheel-drive capability with the forthcoming Jeep Renegade, so this is certainly a car that was crafted with considerable attention for the American customer.)

Although this small crossover segment is going to become increasingly competitive—Honda will be bringing out the HR-V, Mazda the CX-3, and sales Buick Encore are up 57.4% this year over last—Davis is confident that because of the Italian pedigree of the 500X, they’ll have a hit on their hands.

The 500X, incidentally, not only has Italian design (penned at Centro Stile in Turin, Italy), but is also being manufactured in Italy, at a Fiat plant in Melfi.

In addition to the discussion of the Fiat 500X and Fiat in general, Brinley, Paukert and I also discuss the challenge that Uber is facing and its potential effect on mobility, why Tesla hasn’t scheduled a press conference at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, and whether the judges of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards (of which Paukert is a judge) got it right with the car finalists Hyundai Genesis, Ford Mustang, and Volkswagen Golf and truck finalists Lincoln MKC, Chevrolet Colorado, and Ford F-150.

And you can see it all here: